Known as “Bridges,” a new law passed in 2017 extends the foster care emancipation age to 21, and provides housing and support to those who would otherwise be on their own at age 18.
“I think all of us that are working with these kids are more excited about the ones that stay because we know how important that diploma is, and how it’s the key to the next step,” she said. “Whether it be college or just entering into the workforce, that diploma gets them so much further than if they would have left at 18 and had nothing.”
In Ohio, about 1,000 youth emancipate out of the foster care system every year, and only half of them get their diploma or a GED.
One of Sexton’s charges was part of the graduating class, now Camaury Gaines is hopefully headed for Miami University Hamilton in the fall. He said he couldn’t have done it without Sexton’s help.
“I look at her like an aunt, kind of,” Gaines said. “She always looks out for me, she fights for me. I don’t know, she’s just really been all around great to me.”
Sexton said they are working now to get Gaines enrolled at school. He wants to be a doctor.
“I want to become a neurologist and see what else happens after that,” he told the Journal-News. “But I also want to come back and help kids that was in my situation and show them you can still do it, that it’s possible.”
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Butler County Job and Family Services Executive Director Bill Morrison said they always encourage their foster children to try and lift themselves out of the lives they’ve been forced to live.
“Just like kids who come out of regular Butler County families, some of them succeed in their high aspirations, and some of them don’t succeed in those high aspirations,” Morrison said. “But we want them to be thinking about what’s the best life they can have because that’s really how you break the cycle of abuse and neglect.”
Sexton said this year seven of the graduates are going to college or trade school, six are getting jobs, two are considering the military and one is incarcerated in the Butler County Jail. She said it is “disheartening” when one of their former charges crosses to the wrong side of the law, and unfortunately, it is not rare.
“The rate of youth within two years I think that are incarcerated or homeless is just astronomical,” she said.